Have independent businesses been squeezed out in Chester?
Diane Addison, who will shut Watergate News in the new year, said visitor footfall was down because the majority of the city’s ‘quirky little shops’ had gone.
She said: “You can get most things you want elsewhere without coming into the centre of Chester.
“We prided ourselves on it years ago, trading on Saturday, you couldn’t see across the road. Now it’s spot the customer.”
On the other side of the argument, CH1ChesterBid chief executive Rita Waters said feedback showed the number of visitors was increasing.
But many of you agreed with Diane and also said high parking charges were a factor in bringing about a change in Chester’s identity.
Pam Parkinson said: “I do agree with what she is saying and her reasons.
“I don’t go to Chester because there is nowhere to park and like she said quirky and different shops have disappeared.
“All that is left are big names which you can visit for free at Broughton or Cheshire Oaks.
“Chester unfortunately had nothing different to offer anymore.”
The decision to bring the Coca-Cola truck to Chester also provoked a strong reaction.
Stephanie McAlea said: “Go to York, Stratford, or Oxford and they’ve kept their boutique shops.
“Why struggle to get into town when you’re just visiting the same old generic chain shops you can visit at Cheshire Oaks?”
There are worries the upcoming closure of the Linenhall car park could also make it more difficult to get in to Chester.
Robert Lindop said: “Lack of, and unbelievably high parking charges do nothing to promote the city.
“I travel all over the UK on business and Chester is the highest rate outside the M25.”
BID’s chief exec added research had showed the city’s parking charges were ‘not that bad’.
Facebook commenters pointed out shoppers can leave their cars on certain sites for free in the afternoon.
Gina Riley said: “There is parking in Chester that is reasonable such as £5 all day at the racecourse and competitive with similar cities. The closer you are to The Cross the higher the rent and rates, but sadly the multiples who can afford the high rents and rates push the smaller businesses away.
“Still I think Chester has plenty of individual retailers and footfall is getting higher and higher from my perspective.”
The proposed £300m Northgate Development could bring a cinema as well as retail and leisure facilities to the city.
Andrew Brown said: “There are a number of independent retailers in the town centre as well as restaurants, but of course there are large chains too.
“Parking is free from mid-afternoon in the week, and the city is already congested as hell. So where would you like them to build parking, exactly?
“Perhaps they could lower the charges, but then blame central government for slashing local government funding.”
A new cultural centre is also being built on Northgate Street.
Paul Williams said: “I never have a problem parking, I love the city and visit as often as I can.
“I don’t really agree with the comments, particularly after 2pm in the afternoon as there are loads of free places to park.
“I think the biggest issue is the business rates aren’t geared towards the small retailers so they simply can’t afford to compete."
Has Chester become too commercialised?
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Watergate News will shut after 12 years of trading in 2016.
Diane Porter said: “Such a shame, guess when you are against the big boys in business it is tough.
“This is happening all over the place sadly and we need to support our small, local shopkeepers.”
What do you think of this story? Has Chester become too commercialised? We want to hear from you so leave a comment below.